Adult Eyes

March 31, 2012 0 By

“I don’t know how to be an adult…you know?” I say, over a drink at the hotel bar in San Diego, to my friend from graduate school.

“No.  Yeah.  I DO know.”  She replies.

I am 33, she is probably about 26.  We both graduated with degrees in the fields we want to work in forever almost three years ago, and we are both currently working in our chosen careers.  This seemed impossible three years ago, but we have been very lucky.  This is the first time we have seen each other in almost two years when we happened to both be at the same conference and had a chance to meet up.

If you had asked me when I was 22 and graduating from college, fresh, and excited to venture into the “real world” I would have said being an adult probably means four basic things.  A career with benefits and a retirement plan, a house, a husband, and some children.

11 and ¾ years later, I have one of these four.  And even with this one thing, I’m not sure I know what I am doing most of the time.  Not just at my job, though there are days like that, but as a “career professional”.  How much do I invest in quality clothes, or do I continue to shop the clearance rack at Target to avoid the guilt of overspending?  Do I invest in nice furniture, to furnish a temporary apartment, or do I wait, until I move, or get a house and settle in?  Do I spend money on travel and enjoy relative youth while I have it, or do I try to save up for the responsibilities of home ownership?  What investments do I have with my 401K and what am I supposed to do with that?  Do I make roasted chicken with rosemary and lemon following a recipe to serve four, when I am going to dine alone, or do I just throw together an omelet and eat a bowl of cereal?  When I have friends over, do I serve wine and cheese, or chips and salsa with some beer?

I still have my twin bed from my childhood (yes, this is slightly ridiculous).  I still have mismatched furniture from Ikea, garage sales, and assembled myself from Target.  The only thing I can take care of successfully is a few plants, and my dog.

Yes, I can perform basic adult tasks, like balancing my checkbook, paying my student loan (though it never seems to go down), buying groceries, following recipes, and doing laundry (though I admit to burning a giant hole in my new shirt with an iron a few weeks ago.)  I have learned from experience that I can move to a new city and find new friends and make connections.  I can successfully keep contact with my former friends and family and try to adventure where I am planted.

Where I am planted, doesn’t seem to be pushing me towards feeling more adult.  Southern Ohio is not my dream location and I miss the pulse of bigger cities.  I try to date, but feel discouraged in small town life.  Would a bigger city make me feel more adult?  Will a fancy condo with dark hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances make me want to make my friends roast chicken with a nice Riesling?  Would I meet my husband at the gym, or climbing wall, at the salsa club, or over coffee?  Would we buy a house in the country with room for the dogs to run, and forgo children, instead continuing to find adventures in new places?  Would this be entirely selfish and self-indulgent?  At that point, would I look at my husband and feel like an adult?

So, as I inch closer to thirty-four, I ask this: How do I learn to look at the world with adult eyes?  And if no one can tell me, is there an app for that?